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Showing posts from 2019

Melissa Broder's The Pisces

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...I was not about to learn to love myself here. It was as though they were each in competition with the other to see who could be grossest while simultaneously loving themselves the most. Is that what it meant to love yourself? To be repellent?

I've wanted to read this book since its release and it was just as delightful and as weird as I anticipated.

The Pisces by Melissa Broder
Hogarth Press, 2018
Copy from the library

It feels like the press about this book centers on the merperson sex and grossout earthiness which is not actually at the center of this read. (And there was far less gross body stuff than I feared; I was thinking it'd be Otessa Moshfegh level.)

I read this in about three hours so I was surprised with the depth Broder evoked: duality, absence, the stories we tell ourselves when the narrative thread of our lives is unclear, obsession, imagination.

Our heroine Lucy should be unlikable -- she doesn't do herself any favors -- but I found her endearing in he…

Sally Thorne's 99 Percent Mine

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You guys. You guys! Sally Thorne's The Hating Game was a favorite of 2017. I've already reread three, four times? I love it enough to say that I was wicked impatient for Thorne's next offering and to my utter dismay, it really, really didn't land with me.

99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne
William Morrow Paperbacks, 2019
Copy via the library

Everything about this one just disappointed, from the characters to the plot. Our heroine's obstacle to her HEA? Her own twin brother (who we're actually supposed to like, I think).

Let me go back. Characters: super flat. Premise: kind of not there, and also, dreary. Sexual tension: really, nonexistent. I mean, we're told our hero and heroine are super into each other but since the characters are just these flimsy frames, whether they figure it out or not just didn't have emotional resonance for me.

And the whole Alpha Male thing with our hero -- who is otherwise a lovely human but turns into A Savage Animal for our he…

Susan Tan's Cilla Lee-Jenkins: Future Author Extraordinaire

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Me on the Inside: Art is dead.

Me on the Outside: [in a very small, quiet voice] Okay. She got a cookie, and then because she was very full and tired, she took a nap.

Can't wait for my niblings to be old enough to start longer books because this will be one of the first I'll shove into their hands.

Cilla Lee-Jenkins: Future Author Extraordinaire by Susan Tan
Roaring Brook Press, 2017
Copy from public library
Read Harder challenge

One of the Read Harder challenges this year is to read "A children’s or middle grade book (not YA) that has won a diversity award since 2009" -- not typically something I'd read so I'm grateful for being nudged outside my usual lanes.

Tan's novel is charming, amusing, sobering, and fun. Our heroine, Cilla, wants very much to be a bestselling author and she's living her best life to do so. But life conspires to challenge her -- there's a new sibling on the way, and her classmates and teacher don't quite have the imaginati…

Kris Waldherr's The Lost History of Dreams

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...he had the sense of viewing a man's life reduced to words. Black ink on white paper. Sentence after sentence. The grey minutia of daily routine flashed with occasional color...

This Gothic historical novel was a nearly perfect read: it held a snaky plot and thorny characters nestled in compelling narrative and deeply resonant themes. All love stories are ghost stories, we'll read more than once in this book, but this novel is more than a love story, more than a ghost story.

The Lost History of Dreams by Kris Waldherr
Touchstone, 2019
Review copy provided by publisher
Historical Fiction challenge

At the center of the novel is an imagining of the life of a Byron-like literary genius (and in those parts, I was reminded of Possession) touched with the unabashed, insistent naming of the woman behind such a figure. But surrounding that outward story is tortured emotions stretched taut to the point of madness (I was reminded of Sarah Waters and the way she writes about grief, ghosts…

Weekend reads, or I bet I'll be cleaning

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Two short reads on the docket for the weekend as I actually plan to do a great deal of cleaning. This coming week my brother, niblings, and mother will be visiting so needless to say, I'll be desperate to get things in order.

I don't know about you all, but the handful of truly gorgeous days have meant we've been outside and not spring cleaning, and whoo, does the house reflect that!

What are you reading this weekend?

Wordless Wednesday, April 10

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Rainy and chilly. Perfect for reading. My Wordless Wednesday features Kris Waldherr's new novel, The Lost History of Dreams. It's delicious. I can't wait to squee when I'm finished.

Alyssa Cole's A Prince on Paper

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Love was for brave fools and Johan was entirely too clever and too cowardly to succumb to it.

Take one international playboy and one wallflower determined to change the story people tell of her and you get this wickedly charming romance.

A Prince on Paper by Alyssa Cole
Avon, 2019
Digital ARC provided by publisher

This was my second Cole book, but the first contemporary romance of hers I've read. As with the first book of hers I read, An Extraordinary Union, I was immediately smitten.

This is technically the third book in her Reluctant Royals series so I was a tiiiiiiny bit lost at the start when the characters from the earlier books were crowding for reader reunion time. But enough backstory is provided that I wasn't lost when it came to Nya and Johan, and their super cute, super sexy romance won me over immediately.

I loved this modern take on the romancing royalty trope -- I haven't read any modern royal romances, actually so I didn't know what to expect -- and now C…

Caitlin Starling's The Luminous Dead

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Words flashed up on her cracked screen.

DON'T SPEAK

Gyre choked down the faint, nascent sound that threatened to leak from her throat.

The words on her screen disappeared, and were replaced with:

IT HEARD THE SINGING. IT DOESN'T LIKE HUMAN VOICES


I won this book via GoodReads' First Reads and I really had no idea what it was about; but I loved the title and the cover so dove right in. What I landed in was a creepy, claustrophobic thriller pitting/partnering two damaged people in a place determined to kill them.

The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling
Harper Voyager, 2019
Review copy from publisher

Starling doesn't waste time plunging us (literally) into her world, an alien place where mining dominates but some kind of alien known as Tunnelers make it dangerous. Cavers identify lodes -- if they survive the Tunnelers -- and a good caver can make lucrative money surviving one or two expeditions. Surviving being the operative word.

Gyre is desperate to leave her home planet…

Sangu Mandanna's A Spark of White Fire

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"Your arrow was a spark," she replies," A spark of fire so hot and white that no one will be able to put it out. And even a spark of fire can consume an entire forest if it can jump from tree to tree. Watch, Esmae. Watch as one act leads to another and then to another after that. Watch the trees pass white flames on. Watch the forest burn."

OH.MY.GOD.  This book. This book!!!

My local library had a display of fairy tales and myths retold and I snagged this one solely because it was based on the Mahābhārata (a myth I'm totally unfamiliar with). Mandanna sets her retelling in space, merging the high drama of gods and royalty and intrigue with the sparkle, danger, and excitement of interstellar conflict.

I loved every page. (This will be a top read of 2019 for sure.)

A Spark of White Fire by Sangu Mandanna
Sky Pony, 2018
Copy from library
Read Harder challenge

One of Book Riot's Read Harder 2019 challenges is to read a book of mythology or folklore, and I was e…

Weekend reads and glutting myself...

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I've been on a serious romance novel binge the last week (clocking in seven romances so far!) and I'm not sure it's abating as I'm rereading Lauren Layne's Walk of Shame (bubbly, charming debutante and prickly, grumpy divorce lawyer, mmmmm).

I have started Leonie Swann's Three Bags Full, which is a book club read AND ticks one of my reading challenge requirements. It's a cozy-ish murder mystery narrated by sheep. I'm loving it so far.

What are you reading this weekend?

Wordless Wednesday, March 6

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My Wordless Wednesday is from earlier this week, following the 15-inches of snow that settled on us. I decided to open up some local wine and start Enchantée by Gita Trelease. I love a good snow day.

Wordless Wednesday, February 27

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A little woo before work. The Ostara Tarot and Danielle Noel's The Book of Tarot.

Alyssa Cole's An Extraordinary Union

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...the man was unduly annoyed at her for having the gall to aid her country without virtue of a certain appendage hanging between her thighs.

First, I will confess that a biracial romance set during the Civil War instantly made me nervous, especially since our heroine is under cover as a slave. So much could have gone wrong, and the reason I trusted it wouldn't was because of Cole.

Second, all my anxieties were for naught: this book was freakin' awesome.
An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole
Kensington, 2017
Copy from library
Historical Fiction and Read Harder challenges

Ellen, a former slave, has returned to the South and a life of servitude in service of Pres. Abraham and freedom. A spy with Pinkerton's group, she's been placed in the household of a high level Confederate, using her wits and eidetic memory to aid the Union.

Malcolm McCall is a Pinkerton too, pretending to be a good Confederate officer. Somehow, impossibly, Cole managed to make this set up not squi…

Jenny Lawson's Furiously Happy

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Don’t make the same mistakes that everyone else makes. Make wonderful mistakes. Make the kind of mistakes that make people so shocked that they have no other choice but to be a little impressed.

I've had this book on my TBR for forever, probably since it was released. I actually started it once a few years ago, and didn't get very far, and I'll be honest -- I kind of gritted my teeth to finish this one in January so I could tick it off my list.

Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson
Macmillan Audio, 2015
Audiobook from library
Read Harder challenge

I hadn't remembered Lawson is the blogger The Blogess, so I wasn't familiar with her style of writing and tone. Furiously Happy is a collection of pieces (most original, some reworked blog posts) touching on a variety of topics related to her desire to try to live life 'furiously happy'.

The tone of these pieces are darkly funny; Lawson is occasionally horrifying (her thing for taxiderm…

Weekend reads, hopefully just reading!

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This weekend I'll be starting Crystal King's The Chef's Secret. Her debut, Feast of Sorrow, made my top 10 of 2017 and I'm so excited for this one.

I'm hoping I'll have a very readerly weekend; my wife will likely be at the farm all weekend doing maple sugaring as well as caring for the new lambs and piglets.

What are you reading this weekend?

Mandeliene Smith's Rutting Season

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She did not understand his words; she couldn't even attach them to the conversation they were having, but, like an animal, she understood the tone. Not forgiveness, not liking, but a kind of permission.

The jacket description doesn't do this volume of nine short stories justice. The stories aren't of "girls behaving badly", like we're reading about out-of-control tweens or reckless-on-spring-break coeds. The central figures in these stories are individuals crushed under intense familial pressure: death, abuse, neglect (benign and otherwise).

Rutting Season by Mandeliene Smith
Scribner, 2019
Electronic ARC provided by publisher

Smith's narrative style and easy characterization is envy-inducing; in a few paragraphs, she can convey a wealth of background. Mood and setting are bold, intense, impossible to ignore, and I read each story with a low-grade anxiety, desperate to know how things would shake out for each character. Of the nine, I was only 'eh'…

Wordless Wednesday, February 20

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Today's Wordless Wednesday. It's baby animal season on the farm, including the newest arrival to our family, Annie the rescue pup. She's about thirteen weeks old and appears to be mostly beagle. She's wild about the other animals on the farm and wants desperately to be best friends with the cats in our house. You can probably imagine how the cats have responded.

Share a pretty view from your life today!

Claire G. Coleman's Terra Nullius

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So Natives continued to rebel, and continued to die. Natives continued to rebel and continued to be imprisoned, to be tortured, to be executed. Natives continued to rebel.

Terra nullius -- "empty land" -- was the doctrine with which white Europeans used as the basis for invading Australia. It was codified into Australian law until the 1990s, but the impact is still felt.

A society based on dominance, genocide, and colonization can only respond in certain kinds of ways.

Terra Nullius by Claire G. Coleman
Small Beer Press, 2018
Copy from library
Read Harder challenge

Coleman's novel takes us to colonized Australia. Those who remember the invaders -- now the Settlers -- are grandparents; at least two generations have been born into a world of subservience and oppression. As when I first read Margaret Atwood's The Handmaiden's Tale, I struggled to understand if I was reading the past or the future; either possibility felt real.

It took me about 120ish pages to really g…

Aja Monet's My Mother was a Freedom Fighter

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being policed for being
too poor
too much a shade
a color
a shade of color
too close to the root
too close to the color
               the shade
too close
to the color of a beating
being beaten
                    beating         heart

-- from "the first time"

Poetry doesn't have to be complicated or obscure. Poetry can pull out the sharp thorn of truth and hold it up in a way that would be pedantic or amateurish in fiction or essay. Poetry distills down what is so very individual into a sip that offers a brief flash of universal understanding.

Monet's volume of poetry grabbed me with the title; it had been on my radar as one of the 2017 releases to look out for. It ticked a box, too, for the 2019 Read Harder challenge. I read it in one night, gulping, then spent another two weeks moving back through the pieces slowly.

My Mother Was a Freedom Fighter by Aja Monet
Haymarket Books, 2017
Copy from library
Read Harder challenge

Many pieces hit you like the headline of a news story, …

Silvia Moreno-Garcia's Signal to Noise

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"I hate this city," she told the pillow, because she wouldn't tell him.

Music as magic. 1988 and 2009. A story split between two fixed points, a friendship then and what it might be now.

Set in Mexico City, this novel follows a young teen named Meche, a loner who adores music and is friends with two other loners, Sebastian and Daniela. When Meche discovers she can cast spells using records, her life is changed.


Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Solaris, 2015
Copy from library
Read Harder challenge

Initially, it seems this magical skill can only improve Meche's life, even though Sebastian and Daniela are less convinced. Angry teenagers wielding magic leads right where you can imagine, and I loved every minute of it. Moreno-Garcia beautifully articulates that awful, oppressive, unshakeable frustration one suffers as a teen, and the ugly wishes Meche manifests resonated with me so strongly. At times, Meche is so unlikable, but realistically so: you want to shake her…

Dominique Christina's Anarcha Speaks: A History in Poems

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me? a bruised ghost
i concentrate on
my teeth/ the roof of my mouth/
i'm tryna rub it smooth/ concentrate on not blinkin

see how long I can go til my eyes need to shut.

Anarcha was one of eleven slaves who were purchased by "father" of modern gynecology Dr Marion Sims for his research. Essentially torturing these women, Sims did his research (including surgeries) without offering pain relief or sedation. Our lauded study and history of medicine has for so long been polished of its shameful bits, but in this slender, intense volume of poetry, a name and voice is given to the very real, the very human sacrifice to our knowledge.

Anarcha Speaks: A History in Poems by Dominique Christina
Beacon Press, 2018
Personal copy

It's impossible to call this an "enjoyable" read, but it is gutting, gripping, and necessary. Giving voice to the ignored, Christina makes it imperative we know and understand the humans behind any learning we've gained. This volume can be read w…

Kaoru Mori's Emma, #1

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 ...for this world allows you no more than a cupful of dreams. So be stingy with your time. And run.

Or something like that.

I think if I had known manga was similar to graphic novels, I might not have waited so long to make my first attempt. As it were, thanks to Read Harder 2019, I begged the internet to recommend some historical romance manga, and across the board, folks recommended this series.

Holy crap, it was so charming.

Emma, Vol. 01 by Kaoru Mori (森 薫)
CMX, 2006
Copy from public library
Historical Fiction and Read Harder challenges

Set in 1885 London, our heroine, Emma, is a maid for a retired governess. The governess' former ward, William Jones, is now a young man tasked with managing his family's business and fortune. He's immediately smitten by the quiet Emma but social constraints prevent him from openly pursuing her.

There's not much more to the story than that, and the delight is in William and Emma and their circles. William's classmate Hakim visits …

Wordless Wednesday, Jan 23

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My Wordless Wednesday offering for this week: my newest read, Alyssa Cole's An Extraordinary Union, which I've wanted to read for forever and it ticks one of the boxes for this year's Read Harder challenge. Woot!

Survived my first super snowy weekend in our new place, and I'm enjoying rural-y snowy views rather than my usual quickly-muddy urban slushy ones.

What are you reading right now?

Nancy Bilyeau's The Blue

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If it were not for his love for me, none of this would have taken place.

Porcelain. Not what I thought would make for exciting reading, but in this fabulous book, it's a commodity that drives politics, espionage, and obsession.

The Blue by Nancy Bilyeau
Endeavor Quill, 2018
Review copy from publisher

I'm a longtime fan of Nancy Bilyeau's books: rich with drama and unforgettable characters, they are the kind of books that just sweep you up. Here, Bilyeau makes an industrial endeavor -- the 18th century passion for blue porcelain -- a captivating, dramatic story, centered on a winning heroine.

Genevieve Planché is a descendant of French Huguenot refugees. A talented artist, she hopes to be mentored by William Hogarth, but her grandfather wishes her to work as a artisan at the Derby porcelainworks. Her rebellious childhood sweetheart leads her, instead, into a mystifying, increasingly deadly world of industrial espionage -- and us readers into a fascinating world where the sci…

Weekend reads, or finally a quiet weekend!

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Finally a weekend that's almost entirely free of obligations! After almost eight weeks of busy weekends -- moving, holidays, family and friends, appointments, work -- I'm finally facing two days that are relatively open!

As part of Book Riot's Read Harder 2019 challenge, I'm starting my first manga this weekend, Kaoru Mori's Emma. I never thought manga would interest me, so it was a delight to learn there's a number of historical romance-y ones out there. I've got my coffee, a plush blanket, and this book. Bring on the weekend!

What are you reading this weekend?

Oyinkan Braithwaite's My Sister, the Serial Killer

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Ayoola summons me with these words—Korede, I killed him.

Between the book's title and its opening lines, you know what you're going into with this read.

Happily, there's no gore. No horror. So if you're squeamish, no need to worry. It's just a darkly delicious read that verges, knife's edge, on being funny but is also just realistic enough, razor blade thin, to be chilling.

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
Doubleday, 2018
Copy from public library

Our heroine, Korede, is serious, responsible, deliberate. Her sister Ayoola is gorgeous, irresponsible, and unrepentant.

Recently, Ayoola's developed a habit of killing her boyfriends.

The deaths all seem accidental enough, but Korede is worried. Her family weathered trouble and all Korede wants is to protect her sister and mother, do her job, and find love -- hopefully with the dreamy doctor at the hospital where she works. So when Ayoola notices that dreamy doctor, well...

I inhaled this read …

Sarah Perry's Melmoth

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Oh my friend, my darling—won't you take my hand? I've been so lonely!

I told my wife this book reminded me, in a way, of the tv show, Hannibal. Not because of any actual plot similarity (Perry's novel is devoid of serial killers) but more in the opulent, baroque, and ominous style in both.

Melmoth by Sarah Perry
Custom House, 2018
Copy from public library

It's extravagant. Melodramatic. Wuthering Heights and mezzo-sopranos dying on stage. Tea-and-rainy-day moody. A bit like Byatt's Possession, only far more brief. It has all the atmosphere and setting of a book I love, so I'm especially crushed that I didn't love it!

Inspired by a Victorian novel about a man named Melmoth, Perry instead imagines that Melmoth is a haunted woman who sees people's sins and invites them to spend eternity with her. Helen, ex-pat in Prague and suffering self-imposed punishment, learns about Melmoth from a friend, who learns about Melmoth from a friend. An urban legend of sorts…

Weekend reads, or it's that time of year...

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This weekend I won't be reading since my family will be attending the New Bedford Whaling Museum's annual Moby Dick Marathon, a weekend event where passionate fans read Moby Dick aloud.

Moby Dick is my wife's all time favorite book so when we discovered this event, it immediately became an annual affair for us. This is our fifth year going, and my wife is an official reader for her second year in a row. She's very excited.

I'm not a Moby Dick fan but I do love geeks, and it's impossible not to enjoy this when surrounded by passionate fans. The read happens at the museum, which only enhances the story, and there are all kinds of fun nods to the story -- there's a celebrity Ishmael to open the reading every year, the mayor reads the section of Ishmael walking thru Bedford, and the worship scene happens at the Seaman's Bethel, etc.

So, it's not my preferred read, but it'll do. What are you reading this weekend?

Top 10 Reads of 2018

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It looks like I've read 33 books this year, which is five less than last year. But given the crazy amounts of stress and drama that hit me in 2018, I'm frankly delighted with this count.

Ten of my 33 reads were by authors of color. Six of my 33 reads were penned by male-identified authors. Nine reads were not novels: one play, three volumes of poetry, two memoirs, two collections of essays, and a graphic novel.

Three of my reads were for my book club (Things Fall Apart, Borderline, and The Changeling), which is embarrassing since we've done 9 books for the year and I run the club!

I achieved a wopping zero on reading challenges, which I aim to change in 2019. Mostly by committing myself to two (Read Harder and Historical Fiction) and really diversifying my reading. And reading more, you know, than I had this year. (Re-frame: This year I knit 8 items, which is a 2000% improvement over other years. So, small perk of reading less!)

And for this top ten...I'm actually rea…